Thursday, October 3, 2013

New Restaurant in Town - With Mantas!

Recently, Betty and I dined at one of the newest restaurants in town "Rays on the Bay" in the Sheraton Keauhou Resort and Spa. It was truly a wonderful dining experience with superb food and excellent service.

The restaurant has a nice atmosphere with covered, outdoor seating overlooking Keauhou Bay, where Betty and I have the majority of our manta ray encounters when SCUBA diving.

Betty had the Steak & Lobster...

and I had the Mahi Mahi & Lobster.

Everything was wonderfully seasoned and very tasty. I sampled Betty's steak and found it to be as tender and flavorful as she claimed it to be.

The Mai Tais were nice, too!

After dinner, we lingered by the railing and watched the manta rays that were attracted by the lights shining into the water. I tried to photograph them but it was too dark.

I would highly recommend "Rays on the Bay" to visitors and Kama'aina alike!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Bon Dance Season

Betty and I attended three Bon dances during July this year. Although we're not Buddhist, we are always welcomed at these events and enjoy them a great deal. The flowing Kimonos, the traditional music and the chance to catch up with old friends makes for a pleasant evening. Here are some photos!

All Photos Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

Friday, June 14, 2013

Happy Couple

Haven't been seeing a lot of really interesting stuff recently. but I did get this shot of a pair of moorish idols (Zanclus cornutus) gliding serenely along a wall at Honaunau. I thought they made a nice couple. Have a nice weekend!

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

Saturday, June 8, 2013

South Swell

We've been hit with two late-season south swells for two consecutive weeks. I took these photos earlier this week at a spot called"The End of the World" otherwise known as Kuamo'o Bay. The ocean is beautiful when it is angry!

All photos Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

Nudi Show

While photographing giant manta rays at Keauhou Bay, I happened upon two distinct species of nudibranchs during the course of the morning. The first was a Varicose Phyllidia (Phylidiella varicosa), a thick, robust slug which is sometimes referred to as a "fried egg nudibranch" due to its round yellow markings on an irregular white background.

Photos Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

Later, I found a small, pink-and-black Pustulose Phyllidia (Phylidiella pustulosa) slinking through some coral rubble appearing to be searching for cover.

Photos Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler
I sometimes (maybe often) lament not being able to afford the expensive camera rigs the serious underwater photographers use. My equipment is just a compact "point-and-shoot" camera in a housing. However, those kits need to be set up specifically for macro or wide-angle prior to the dive. I would never have gotten photos of inch-long nudibranchs and mantas on the same dive with a "pro" kit. So, in a way, I have more flexibility and probably less frustration just taking underwater snapshots than trying to get on the cover of National Geographic.

Friday, May 31, 2013


Our last big surf of the season has come and gone (hopefully) and we now have consistent calm sea conditions all along the Kona Coast. When the sea gets flat like this I like to get away from Honaunau and check out some of the bays and beaches that are usually more exposed to the surf.

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler
On Memorial Day, I ventured down to Keauhou Bay to see if I could find some mantas to swim with me. I was lucky and found two!  By far the more social of the pair was Kailey, the one pictured here. She remained very calm and collected as I settled into her orbit of the cleaning stations on the south side of the bay.

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler
Kailey was named by the diver who first reported her existence to the Manta Pacific Research Foundation (MPRF). The great folks at MPRF identified her for me when I e-mailed them a photo. They do a wonderful job of monitoring the manta ray dive operations along the Kona Coast and have established guidelines for dive operators who offer Manta Night Dives. MPRF has also been instrumental in getting legislation passed to protect the resident manta rays of Hawai'i from fishing and capture for public aquaria.

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

Unfortunately, the ocean is an untamed environment and no organization can protect every manta from the countless hazards out there. Kailey is missing her entire left cephalic lobe. This is the fin-like extension that forms one of the manta's "horns". When unfurled, these lobes funnel plankton into the mouth during feeding. Fortunately, Kailey's injury is well-healed and she appears well nourished as well. Hopefully, she'll be around to delight divers and snorkelers for a long time to come.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Flocking Goats

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

On the North side of Honaunau Bay is a school of yellowfin goatfish (Mulloidichthys varicolensis) that is there every time I pass by. All day long, season after season this school hovers motionless almost in the same spot. As a result, I tend not to pay it much notice.

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler
However, I noticed recently how pretty this group of fish appears, especially in the early morning as the sunlight filters through the water. Usually, there are one or two other fish mixed in the school. Goatfish are so named for the two sensory barbels on their chins that distantly resemble a goat's beard. At night, the school disperses and each individual probes the sand with its barbels in search of invertebrates to eat. Come sunrise, they have all regrouped at the customary spot.

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Encountered on almost every reef dive, the Bluespotted Cornetfish (Fistularia commersonii) is so common I seldom photograph it.  Still, it's an interesting fish that looks like it has been run over by a steamroller. Even the eyes look flattened!

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler
The cornetfish only moves the rear third of its body as it swims. While appearing very slender in profile, when viewed from above it is surprisingly stout.

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

on night dives I have heard this species "honk" when startled by the beam of my light passing over it. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


This is why it's kind of dumb to go skinny-dipping in broad daylight at a popular diving site. It was quite a show.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Whitemouth Moray

Just wanted to share a couple of photos I took at the beginning of the month when we had the coral spawning. These photos of a whitemouth moray (Gymnothorax meleagris) were taken about two hours after the spawning.

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler
You can see that the water's surface still looks a little blurry from all the organic material remaining in the water column. I don't know if whitemouths are the most common morays in Hawai'i but they are definitely the species I see most often.

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

In the photo above I changed the angle a little bit to get more of a side profile. It wasn't  until I got home and started going through the photos that I noticed the other eel in the background on the left side. Kewl!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Loving Lizardfish

Just a photo I took this weekend of a pair of reef lizardfish (Synodus variagatus) looking very cozy together.

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Baby Reticulated

All Photos Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

 The reticulated butterflyfish (Chaetodon reticulatus) is an uncommon species in Hawai'i. Over the years I've seen the occasional pair at Honaunau, but they are usually moving rapidly and don't like to be approached. 

These photos are of a juvenile reticulated that I found a few weeks ago. Although I don't see it on every dive, it favors a discrete area of the bay and is usually there.

Hopefully, I'll be able to keep tabs on it as it grows and keep a photographic record of its growth. We'll see!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cauliflower Coral Spawn

As I prepared to enter the water at Honaunau on April 27, a local asked me if I had come to photograph the coral spawn. I had no idea such an event was expected and just told him I was there to see whatever there was to see. He replied that the spawning would start in 15 to 20 minutes.

I dropped below the surface and started exploring, appreciating some of the best visibility I had seen in some time. Sure enough, around 15 minutes into the dive smoky haze began to emerge from the cauliflower corals (Pocillopora meandrina).

All photos Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler
My vision could not distinguish individual gametes like I had seen in some documentaries, but what started out as a light haze increased very rapidly.

Visibility quickly dropped from nearly 100' to about 6' in around five minutes. It actually got surprisingly darker and the reef fish, including non-plankton-feeders, became more active.

For a few minutes, I could no longer navigate as my only visual reference was the direction that sunlight was weakly filtering through the thickened water. This was a very new experience for me.

I imagined such a burst of microscopic activity might bring a giant filter-feeder or two onto the reef but that was not to be. After a short while the fog began to clear and I resumed my dive. After completing my dive and taking a one-hour surface interval, I returned for a second dive to find visibility almost back to normal.

After returning home, i searched the internet to find that Pocillopra meandrina spawns April/May at full moon and/or 2-3 days after at around 7:30 in the morning. So it was one of those rare occasions where I was at the right place at the right time!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

New Profile Pic!

Here's a new profile pic of yours truly!                                                                                                 

Try to contain your enthusiasm.

Golden Slug

In addition to finding that shark last weekend, I also found this gold lace nudibranch (Halgerda terramtuentis) sliding on the wall of a lava tube.

Photos Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

It's always a nice surprise to find one of these colorful cousins of terrestrial slugs as they're not that common.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Macho Diving Spectacular!!!

Following that shark post, I thought I'd share more vintage artwork showing the manly sport of SCUBA diving and its many dangers!

OO7 and a few close friends take on SPECTRE

Hand-to-tentacle combat!

Slaughtering Commies SCUBA-style!

Carnivorous clams and Murderous Mantas!

So be careful out there everybody!!!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spotted Pufferfish

The fish du jour for today is the spotted pufferfish (Arothron meleagris), a fairly common species here in Hawai'i. Like all puffers, when alarmed it swallows big gulps of water to make itself too large for a predator to swallow.

Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler
The Hawaiian name for this fish is o'opu hue or simply keke. It is also known as the guineafowl puffer or the velcro puffer on account of its bristly skin. Interestingly, the skin of this cute fish secretes a toxic mucus and should not be handled.